Post Up: Survival Tactics
San Antonio advances and New York forces Game 6.
Spurs 94, Warriors 82 (Spurs win series 4-2)
It’s funny how things can change in a short period of time. In this particular instance, let’s call it 14 months. 14 months ago, the Golden State Warriors were displaying the pageantry that an organization shows to their esteemed players to wear their uniform. That player was Chris Mullin, and that #17 uniform was to be hoisted into the rafters that night. Unfortunately for Joe Lacob, owner of said organization, when it was time to say a few words to the Warriors faithful, he was met with the type of wrath from the fans that’s usually reserved for the opposing team.
Boos. Lots of boos. Merciless boos.
That’s what happens when you trade a fan favorite for a questionable foundation piece. That’s what happens when your current head coach with no prior experience makes bold proclamations like, “we’re going to make the playoffs” as the team makes another appearance in the lottery. Even Warriors legends like Mullin and Rick Barry couldn’t get the fans to chill. Barry even went to lecturing the crowd, and that just caused the mob to reign down more boos onto the owner.
Fourteen months later, with a stiff drink in his hand and a smirk on his face, Joe Lacob stands on the outer edge of a Warriors locker room as players like David Lee and Draymond Green speak in hushed tones,and guys like Kent Bazemore prepare to clean out their lockers. He remembers that day and can reflect on it with pride. “I would’ve booed too if I was a fan in those stands. I would’ve been fed up.”
The San Antonio Spurs did what all savvy, battle-tested teams do to up-and-coming squads who make a run at their place in the Western Conference’s elite hierarchy. They taught them how to make the right plays, how to stay poised, how to play for each other, and how to play winning basketball. In the 94-82 victory, the Spurs gave the Warriors their much-needed lumps (even if that included a scary concussion to Harrison Barnes), and with their series-clinching win will move onto their next series with the Memphis Grizzlies. Just another day at the office for the Spurs, but for the Warriors, they got something else at the end of it all.
A standing ovation. A long one. A heartfelt one.
Jarrett Jack couldn’t leave the court. He was throwing his shoes into the crowd, giving his jersey away to a little boy and signing anything he could get his hands on. The crowd wouldn’t stop. Soon after, the rest of the team came out with him. Stephen Curry, on those weary ankles, came out to halfcourt and said a few words to the people. The crowd wouldn’t stop. Mark Jackson looked on with pride, knowing where he and this team started (the bottom?), and now they’re here.
A team on the rise. A cupboard full of talent. A new set of expectations.
It’s what every team desires to have, and only a precious few get to have it. The Spurs will return to San Antonio, get a brief moment to rest, and then its back to business. Since the Tim Duncan championship era began, it has been 14 years of eliteness (just made that word up) happening for the Spurs, and this team had to go through their own test. To slay the young lions. To exude that type of energy. To make significant sacrifices (including benching Duncan in the 4th quarter) in order to win big games. Maybe these Spurs still have a few lessons to learn to go along with a few more lessons to give.–Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
Knicks 85, Pacers 75 (Pacers lead series 3-2)
It wasn’t pretty but the Knicks lived to see another day behind 28 points and 6 boards from Carmelo Anthony and a huge lift from Chris Copeland off the bench to send the series back to Indiana for a crucial Game 6. Copeland, who couldn’t get off the bench through the first four games of the series, finished with 13 points and provided a huge spark for the home team in the third quarter by hitting a few huge 3-pointers, much to the delight of the sold out Garden.
“I’m extremely happy that I could have some sort of impact on the game,” said a noticeably excited Copeland. “I think I can help us by spreading the floor and bringing Indiana’s big guys away from the basket. I’m just trying to make spacing better by being out there and giving Melo opportunities on the block and J.R. more space to roam and attack. I won’t call it a mismatch, but I will be helpful.”
Indiana, who was without starting point guard George Hill due to a concussion, didn’t stray from the style of hard-nosed basketball that has tormented the Knicks all series and were within striking distance into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Indiana, they continually shot themselves in the foot with bad turnovers (19 on the game), sloppy play, and, most glaringly, missed free throws (14).
“At the free throw line, we just didn’t focus,” said Paul George, who finished with 23 points, 6 dimes and 6 boards. “We have really struggled with that throughout the whole series and this whole playoff run. We need to focus in, those are really important. We allowed the Knicks to pressure us and take us out of our offense a little bit, we gotta do a better job with that.”
The Knicks got off to a hot start, but quickly fell back into the poor shooting ways that have plagued them all series long. Despite another poor performance from the field, the Knicks led wire-to-wire and have faith heading back to Indiana where they have struggled all season long.
“No matter who’s saying what, everyone in this locker room, we believe,” said Raymond Felton. “We believe in ourselves, we believe in each other and now we need to go out there and make it happen.”
With Hill out and Roy Hibbert and Paul George both in foul trouble, the Pacers’ bench reared its ugly head while New York’s reserves contributed in a big way. Outside of D.J. Augustin and Lance Stephenson, Indiana has no other guards that can step in and help. Augustin was terrible in the starting role, finishing with 12 points on 3-9 shooting and 0(!) assists while Stephenson got banged around all night and came up hobbling on several occasions. All of a sudden, Hill’s status is an x-factor in this series, no matter what Frank Vogel says.
“We got plenty to beat the Knicks with or without George Hill,” said Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel. “The guys in uniform need to play better.”
Indiana is going back home with a loss under their belts and momentum back in the Knicks’ favor . During the playoffs, the more desperate team often wins and last night, it was the Knicks who had their backs against the wall. With the Heat having already advanced past to the Conference Finals, and New York with new life the Pacers are feeling the pressure and cannot afford to head back to Manhattan for a Game 7.–Peter Walsh